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Series 11: Letters received by Banks from Charles Clerke, concerning the third Pacific voyage in HM Ships Resolution and Discovery, James Cook, 1776, 1779

Provenance note

The letters in this series, previously located at ML A78-1, were purchased in 1884 from Lord Brabourne by Sir Saul Samuel, the Agent-General for New South Wales. They were transferred to the Mitchell Library in 1910 and were part of the accession became known as the Brabourne collection.

Some of the documents in this series include the original folio numbers assigned by Banks, written in ink in an unknown hand in the top right hand corner.

These letters were used by the compilers of Historical records of New South Wales, vol 1, part 1 (1893), and include some minor annotations made by the compilers.

The series has been arranged chronologically.

Background note

Charles Clerke was enlisted as captain of HMS Discovery and Cook's second-in-command for the third Pacific voyage (1776-1780). Clerke was the only officer to travel on all three of Cook's voyages of discovery.

Cook departed in HMS Resolution on 13 July 1776. Clerke's departure in HMS Discovery was delayed for three weeks because of his detention for debt in the King's Bench Prison. He was imprisoned for money pledged on behalf of debts incurred by his brother Sir John Clerke. Following his brother's departure for the East Indies and the announcement of Cook's third voyage, Sir John's creditors applied for the money fearing Charles Clerke's imminent absence from England for an extended period.

Clerke was not released from prison until after Cook's departure. The two ships met at the Cape of Good Hope and continued the voyage together.

After the death of James Cook on 14 February 1779, at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii, Charles Clerke took command of the voyage until shortly before his own death from consumption on 22 August 1779. Clerke died at sea but was buried at Kamchatka, on the Bering Sea, on 29 August. He was 38 years old.